AI That Serves You

We’re learning from each other how our schools and community can make use of this exciting and ever-changing technology.

Mar 19, 2024  |  By Jeff Shields, FASAE, CAE

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
NBOA President and CEO

As per tradition, I wrote about my top takeaways from the 2024 NBOA Annual Meeting following that momentous event a few weeks ago. So I’m not going to write about it again, but I did want to note how many attendees called out the AI-related sessions as highlights of the program. Yes, we’ve been hearing and talking about the next wave of AI for a year and a half now, but it’s still unclear how many of us can and should be using it in our work in independent school business. I would wager that we are all still learning, even the early adopters among us.

To be perfectly honest, the staff at NBOA are still figuring it out too. We have convened an internal AI working group, representing each of our internal staff teams, to move our use of the technology forward creatively and responsibly. In January, this group was able to attend a digital summit specifically on associations’ use of AI, held by ASAE, the center for association leadership. We have also benefited from conversations with One Schoolhouse and the Association for Academic Leaders, which recently launched an AI-powered research assistant to help academic leaders answer questions and find resources. Of course we have done our own reading, research and tuning in to shorter programming, and we are listening to what you all are doing at your schools!

In a recent Association Insights survey by ASAE, 65% of association leaders said they haven’t engaged significantly with generative AI yet and only 12% were doing so in depth — so I feel confident saying that NBOA staff aren’t behind the ball at this time. As an association that serves business leaders, for whom risk mitigation and accuracy in the compliance environment is paramount, we don’t want to move before we understand the risks involved. At the same time, we need to keep thinking ahead, as the same survey reported that 68% of association leaders believe the impact of generative AI will be significant within 2-4 years.

With a clear policy and appropriate guardrails in place, I feel confident we can experiment responsibly to keep moving forward every aspect of our association work, be it in our communications and how we let you know what’s happening at NBOA; in our administrative processes and how you register for and move through programs and services; and even potentially in our professional development content — though we know when it comes to matters of accounting, HR and risk management, inaccuracy is not an option. Every one of us on the NBOA staff has opportunities — as well as risks — to consider in the months ahead.

With a clear policy and appropriate guardrails in place, I feel confident we can experiment responsibly to keep moving forward every aspect of our association work.

Just to give you a flavor of our current work, here are some basic use cases we’ve found today and are considering for the immediate future: generating marketing content, revising session descriptions, summarizing documents and articles, analyzing anonymized data, evaluating anonymized feedback, ideation/brainstorming. And here are some potential outcomes that we have our eyes on: increased operational efficiency, streamlined administrative processes, enhanced engagement, personalization and networking, and iinnovative offerings. 

I would be remiss not to note that NBOA has organized an AI Risk Management Town Hall on May 2, as part of the NBOA Spring Webinar Series. It’s sure to be a provocative conversation full of practical insights and considerations for the future. And for those of you who have access to 2024 NBOA Annual Meeting on-demand sessions (both in person and digital attendees), sessions on AI and the business office are available now among dozens of others on different topics. You could also read a primer on AI in independent school business, which appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Net Assets. Incidentally, that article is a finalist for the prestigious Neal awards, which recognize excellence in B2B (business to business) media, in the category of generative AI coverage. We don’t do good work for the awards, though — we do it for our members, who also help make it possible.

If your business office is using AI in innovative ways, we’d love to hear from you, through a message, your webinar participation or Connect discussion. Let’s keep learning together, as we always have and always will, with AI at our side or otherwise.

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Follow NBOA President and CEO Jeff Shields @shieldsNBOA.


Jeff Shields

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE

President and CEO


Washington, DC

Jeff Shields, FASAE, CAE, has served as president and CEO of the NBOA since March 2010. NBOA is the premier national association serving the needs of business officers and business operations staff at independent schools. Shields, an active member of the American Society of Association Executives, has been recognized as an ASAE Fellow (FASAE) and earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) professional designation. His current board service includes serving as a director for AMHIC, a healthcare consortium for educational associations in Washington, DC, as well as a trustee for the Enrollment Management Association. Previous board service includes serving as a director for the American Society of Association Executives, as a director for One Schoolhouse, an innovative online school offering supplemental education to independent schools, and as a trustee for Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC. Shields holds a BA from Shippensburg University and an MA from The Ohio State University.

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